Plans to construct a wind farm in the ocean 15 miles south of Jones Beach will undoubtedly be met with opposition. The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association has already weighed in against the project, saying it could disturb vital fishing grounds. There will likely be others to follow during a two-year environmental review.
We mustn’t allow not-in-my-backyard protestations to scuttle such a project again, though. In 2007, plans for a 40-turbine wind farm off Jones Beach, 10 years in the making, were killed largely because of NIMBYist opposition by a small but vocal group called Save Jones Beach. Long Island Power Authority officials claimed the project would cost too much, but studies showed it would have raised ratepayers’ monthly bills by a mere $2.50.
Polling at the time showed Long Islanders overwhelmingly supported the wind farm, despite the rate increase. That’s because most folks understood then, and understand now, that we desperately need renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal to reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels such as coal, oil and even natural gas in order to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis.
Yes, the Earth is heating up beyond the bounds of predictable climactic cycles, and we’re responsible for throwing the world’s mean temperature range out of whack. Power plants, factories, and cars and trucks send more than 40 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide — the chief of driver of climate change — into the atmosphere every year. Since the Industrial Revolution began in 1750, humans have released 2,000 billion metric tons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
That is, we have released enough carbon into the atmosphere to substantially alter its composition and set in a motion the climate crisis that we now face.
The question is, what will we do to stop it? Will we bravely seek new, clean forms of energy, or will we keep our heads buried in the sands of our pristine beaches until they’re all underwater? Yes, the climate crisis is raising sea levels and increasing the strength of hurricanes and tropical storms, while also causing wrenching drought in parts of the world — including the American Southwest — that have traditionally been rain-deprived. You only need look to the abnormally scorching temperatures we have seen across the West this year — and the out-of-control wildfires that have resulted — to understand the magnitude of the crisis that we face.
Climatologists tell us that the climate crisis is no longer a future projection. It is here and now, and we are only starting to feel its terrible effects. We are not powerless, however. Just as human ingenuity got us into this crisis, it can get us out of it. Building offshore wind farms around Long Island — considered the “Saudi Arabia of wind” — would be a step in the right direction.
It’s only natural that the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association would worry about the potential effects of wind farms on traditional fishing grounds. It’s shortsighted, however, to think only in the present. Warmer ocean waters caused by the climate crisis could wipe out two-thirds of all fish species around the globe, according to the World Economic Forum. At the same time, fish — and birds — exist in a narrow temperature range to which they have spent millennia adapting. Change the mean annual temperature over long periods of time, and the fish and birds begin migrating north to cooler regions.
In the near future, in other words, there may not be a Long Island fishing industry to speak of unless we act now.
Over the next two years, we also may hear that wind farms kill birds that fly through them. That’s true. All forms of energy production, though, kill wildlife. Blowing apart mountains to extract coal certainly does. Oil spills in the ocean certainly do. For goodness’ sake, nuclear power plants kill billions of fish and fish larvae annually by sucking them from rivers and oceans through their cooling systems.
The National Audubon Society estimates that we could lose two-thirds of all bird species to climate change. That’s why the society supports wind farms, including offshore wind farms, even though we may lose thousands of birds to them.
If you’re really worried about birds, though, keep your house cat inside. Outdoor house cats kill some 2.4 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada every year, according to the American Bird Conservancy.